Palermo and Northern Sicily Highlights for a Family Vacation

Like everywhere else around the wondrous Island of Sicily, the Northern part of this ancient Jewel of the Mediterranean is filled with incredible sights and things to do for the whole family.  Stretching From Palermo, the main capital, to the beautiful beach resorts of Messina (close to Taormina), Northern Sicily is incredibly varied and comprises four different landscapes. There is the coastline, with its sandy beaches and crystal blue clear waters that line the shores from the famous Mondello beach by Palermo to the rustic piece of history and folklore that is the lovely fishing village of Cefalù, the family­friendly and relaxing multi­cultural atmosphere of Capo D’Orlando beach, the historic town of Milazzo (an ancient Greco­Roman settlement), which also has one of the top beaches in the whole island, and the port town of Messina with its Norman and Byzantine Cathedrals and Churches.

Inland, the many attractions include secluded hilltop towns, old medieval villages trapped in time, Roman and Greek ruins, Saracen and Norman cathedrals, temples, ancient castles, cliffs and hiking trails with breath­taking scenery of the coast and the mountain ranges in the interior.For lodging needs, many beautiful villas in Sicily are offered for rent directly by local owners and are a great alternative to the accommodations of bustling touristy motels and trafficked, expensive resorts. Many tourists are now opting to stay at villa vacation rentals so that they can enjoy their holiday with added luxuries (like a pool, garden, patio, BBQ area, access to the beach, and more) while feeling at home and at a convenient family or group price.

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The third landscape comprises the main mountain ranges of Nebrodi and Madonie, with awesome adventure parks, trails, and natural reserves. Here is where you can really enjoy a fully relaxing pic­nic, surrounded by the lush Mediterranean vegetation, while your kids can let off some steam at one of the many play areas around the island. If food is on your mind, there are plenty of family­ owned agriturismo farms for a truly gastronomic Sicilian experience, and many guided tours of the region’s millennial history.

The fourth landscape is made up of the volcanic Aeolian Islands, off the North Coast. Like Mt. Etna and the Strait of Messina, the seven mystic islands—or seven sisters— of Lipari, Salina, Filicudi, Aloicudi, Stromboli, Panarea and Vulcano have their roots in ancient Greek and Roman mythology, so visiting these islands is a great educational experience for both kids and adults, and a boat ride is highly recommended also because the volcanic/geothermal geology of this region—and Sicily as a whole— has given birth to one of the most fertile and varied ecosystems in the Mediterranean. The strait of Messina and tip of Cape Peloro in particular are a central migratory rest­stop for many species of birds and fish as they make their way along their itineraries, so for nature lovers this is a must­see.

Palermo morning panorama
Palermo morning panorama

In the islands themselves, such as in Vulcano and Stromboli, you can experience a brilliant fireworks display of lava jets and fumaroles, sunbathe lying on the black volcanic sands of the beaches, and swim in their warm soothing waters, while the thermal mud baths of Vulcano are a real attraction for women, who have benefitted from their therapeutic and cosmetic properties since the time of the ancient Romans, Greeks, and Arabs.

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